Content Transparency 101: A Look Behind The Curtain

Posted by | April 11, 2012 | Uncategorized | No Comments

I recently spoke at Venturef0rth about the shift we as digital marketers are seeing from the traditional “outbound” marketing tactics that worked so well (relatively speaking) in the past to the inbound marketing school of thought, or rather being in all the places your potential customers would organically look for your product or service. And that’s because way people buy things has fundamentally changed forever.

Within 5 minutes, a typical person can find enough information to make a purchasing decision. Companies like Zappos and Amazon have steamrolled by understanding this shift in consumer behavior and responding with troves of useful product information. What it boils down to is giving people all the information they need to assuage their doubts and make a decision.

That’s why being as transparent as possible through your content not only gives people the ammunition they need to convert, but also gives them a glimpse into the people behind the curtain. That’s powerful stuff. Giving visitors a glimpse at your decision making process, interesting information about your employees, and the cool “back of house” goings on at your company establishes trust and tells a story. At the end of the day people want to buy from other people, not some faceless corporate entity.

So where are some areas of your site that you can inject a bit more transparency?

Product Reviews and Testimonials – Displaying product reviews or testimonials establishes trust, provides a pipeline of feedback for improvement, and allows potential customers to see other people’s (hopefully) positive experiences with your company and products. Adding crawlable review content to your pages also provides SEO benefit through the addition of contextually relevant user generated content.

amazon reviews

“No explanation required here. Amazon commands 33% of the total ecommerce market share”

Q and A – Another excellent way to foster conversations around your products is providing visitors with a section where they can ask and answer questions on your product or service pages. Whether someone from your team is answering questions or you have an engaged community that enjoys helping each other, this is a great way to push the people that are currently on the fence to purchase. The answers also may help future visitors with the same question.

 Free People Q&A

“Q & A function on a product page”

Your Blog – Aside from shamelessly plugging your company, your blog should provide customers with a window into the soul of your business. Introduce your employees, share big news and plans for the future, jokes that have been circulating the office, company pictures and videos, and provide insight into your decision making process. This type of transparency with your customers allows them to form personal connections with your team. They’re essentially buying you. Consistency is also critical here. According to Paul Graham of Ycombinator, the easiest way to tell when a startup is dying is when people stop hearing from you.

 seomoz blog

“SEOmoz’s blog practices what it preaches with a mix of informative content, insight into their business, and the occasional funny”

User Generated Content – Providing customers and fans the opportunity create and upload content to your site is a proposition filled with win. Images, comments, videos; your essentially farming out content creation to your customers. It acts as social proof to new visitors, is a gratifying experience for the people posting the content as other people interact with and benefit from their work. A great example of this I saw recently is the social image sharing Black Milk Clothing uses on their product detail pages. They give their customers a unique hashtag and encourage them to post an image of themselves styling the product. All of the images are then displayed on the product pages. And their customers go nuts for it!

black milk clothing“Social Image Sharing from a Black Milk Clothing product page”

Video – People that watch product videos are shown to be 64-85% more likely to buy than people who don’t. How to and tutorial videos have been shown to double time on site and page views from visitors who don’t interact with them. This presents a tremendous opportunity for us as marketers and is rapidly becoming a necessity in the ecommerce space. Video is a critical element for all manner of landing pages as it allows you to convey volumes of information in one click. There’s also tremendous SEO opportunity here if you have your videos indexed by search engines.

 zappos video

So who are the winners and losers in this new world order?

Companies that recognize this tectonic shift in the marketplace and can respond by giving today’s savvy consumers all the information they need to comfortably make a decision are poised to capitalize. Companies that cling to the antiquated “front of house, back of house” notion are going to find the going more difficult as we can continue down this path towards openness.


Devin Concannon is an in-house SEO with Urban Outfitter’s Free People brand. As a result he currently knows way too much about things like high waisted shorts, party dresses, and bandeau. Aside from search and social marketing, he’s been known to enjoy listening to music at high volume, driving fast in European cars, cheering on Philly sports teams, and the occasional cheeseburger.

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